Today we began work at El Kurru! I have been interested in the site for 5 years or so, and it’s really exciting to be starting.
The site has been known since 1918 as the location of the first royal pyramid burials in Nubia, which in earlier historical periods had only been built in Egypt. It’s known as El Kurru after the name of the modern village—we don’t know its ancient name (yet).
The pyramids were excavated by an amazing American archaeologist named George Reisner. He was remarkable for the quantity of excavation he did, both in Egypt and in Sudan, and for the quality of his excavation and recordkeeping, which were both excellent for his time.
Reisner wasn’t really interested in settlements, and by the end of his second season working at the site (he was also excavating other royal pyramids in the area), he was tired, and quite sick. His team noticed some remains of a town, including two temples close to the pyramids, a fortification wall over 200 meters long with a double gateway, a rock-cut well with stairs leading down about 5 meters to water, and another segment of stone fortification wall that might or might not be of the same date. Pretty impressive remains by any standards, but Reisner chose not to excavate them more completely and in fact never mentioned them in publications.
It was not until 1999 that Tim Kendall, a curator and archaeologist at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (where Reisner’s records were kept), published these remains from Reisner’s notes. One of the many difficulties was that Reisner did not indicate where any of these features were on the site—there are only the notebook sketches to go by.
I had a chance to look at Reisner’s records in the MFA a couple of months ago, and the head curator Rita Freed allowed me to copy the relevant sections of Reisner’s notes, so I have them with me as we return to El Kurru.